Over 50? Don’t Let Fear of Failure Cripple You

People over 50 are more likely to fear failure than people in their 20s. At least, that’s the takeaway from a recent study.

The Statistic Brain Research Institute conducted a survey about New Year’s resolutions. It found 41% of people usually make resolutions, while 42% never make them.

Of those who do make resolutions, 44% are related to self-improvement or education, while 42% are money-related.

No surprises there. But here’s where it gets interesting…

The survey found 38% of people in their 20s achieve their resolution each year. For those over 50, this number fell to just 16%.

Does this mean over-50s are less motivated than 20-somethings? Not necessarily.

According to Steve Patchin, Director of Career Services at Michigan Technological University, fear of failure may also be at play. On 7 January, Patchin told The Daily Mining Gazette:

‘We live in a society that looks down on failure… We shy away from taking risks, many seeking security in routines and the security they provide.’

Hmmm. It’s an interesting thought. I have to admit I often shy away from risk-taking, or setting the bar too high for myself, out of fear of stuffing up.

Let me give you an example. For years I avoided the weights area of the gym. I would practically cling to the cardio machines like they were life-rafts, afraid that, if I did venture into the weights area, I wouldn’t use any of the equipment correctly.

But this silly fear was putting me at a disadvantage. I could do all the cardio I wanted, but it wasn’t going to give me the toned limbs I so desperately wanted.

So I crossed the threshold…and it was fine. A little awkward at first, but I was much more aware of myself than anyone else was. I realise now that a lot of my ‘fear’ was actually my ego talking. I was worried I would ‘get it wrong’ and make a fool out of myself.

I also think a lot of people (myself included) have an innate fear of success. After all, if we succeed at something once, we have to keep doing it again and again. At least, that’s the narrative we often tell ourselves.

Now I’ll hand you over to Mark Ford, who has a strategy for dealing with fear of failure, along with a ‘protocol’ you can follow to help you achieve your goals.

A strategy for dealing with the ‘fear of failure’

When business writers talk about why so few people become entrepreneurs, they cite ‘fear of failure’ as the No. 1 challenge.

When I feel trepidation about starting a venture, I’m not worried about something as abstract as ‘failure’.

I worry mainly about three things…

  • I sometimes worry I don’t have the knowledge or skill to make the idea successful.
  • I worry I might lose all the time and money I’m about to invest in the idea.
  • And I worry that, if word gets out that I’ve had to close, businesspeople will think I’m a fool. Especially those people who doubted my idea in the first place.

My No. 1 rule of wealth-building is to invest only in what you know. If you think you might not know enough or have the right resources, then you probably don’t.

The solution to that fear is to put your plan on hold and acquire the experience to know what you need to know.

If your fear is being shamed by a failure, you can overcome this kind of fear by imagining the worst possible outcome, and visualising being emotionally OK with that.

Another thing you can do is to be a bit humble when you are announcing your venture.

Rather than bragging about all the money you will be making, keep the claims small and try a little self-deprecating humour. ‘This is probably a terrible idea, but I’m going to try it.’

If your fear is losing your time and money, then you need to follow the protocol I outline in my book, The Reluctant Entrepreneur…

  • Keep your current job and all your current income.
  • Start the business in your spare time at home.
  • Spend the first few days creating a short business plan. Identify your product, and why you believe you can sell it. List the media where you can advertise. Do a quick and dirty cost/benefit analysis, etc. The entire plan should be no more than four pages.
  • Spend the next few weeks or months spending as little money as you can, testing your ‘optimal selling strategy’ — your plan for selling your product.
  • Find a corner of the overall marketplace where you can test your selling strategy cheaply.
  • Create a cash-flow projection that will allow you to ramp up your marketing if the initial testing is positive.
  • If possible, get someone to act as your mentor.
  • When the business starts growing, read my book, Ready, Fire, Aim.

Fear is a good and useful emotion. Successful entrepreneurs don’t deny it. They overcome it sensibly and cautiously by taking baby steps, and proving the optimal selling strategy before going big.

If you feel you have what it takes, don’t let either the fear of embarrassment or the fear of losing time and money get in your way. Keep your risk low, and your dreams high.


Thanks Mark. I agree that fear can be useful to budding entrepreneurs. It can serve as motivation, but will also keep them humble as their business grows.

As I keep reminding myself, it’s always better to try and fail than to never try at all. The greatest lessons are learned not from what you get right, but from what you get wrong.


Michelle Hammond,
Director, Wealth Builders Club Australia

Editor’s Note: Overcoming fear of failure and building a profitable business is just one part of living a wealthier life. Mark has spent more than three decades dispensing wisdom like this…and now he’s compiled it into the most comprehensive wealth-building program in existence…

It’s called the Wealth Builders Club, and it provides the sort of mentorship that has made Mark’s protégés so successful over the years. It includes everything from extra income blueprints (which have the potential to generate thousands of dollars per month) to investment strategies outside the stock market, plus several of Mark’s bestselling books, including Ready, Fire, Aim. Click here to learn more.

From the Port Phillip Publishing Library

Special Report:The Lazarus Project’ Your best chance to double every dollar you invest this year [More…]

Michelle is the Director of Wealth Builders Club Australia, a club for the ‘not yet wealthy’. Working alongside Wealth Builders Club founder and multimillionaire Mark Ford, Michelle is committed to enriching the lives of WBCA members by bringing them original, insightful ideas on wealth building, career advancement, and lifestyle.

Previously, Michelle worked as a business journalist, focusing on the Australian start-up sector.

Money Morning Australia